Is Your Old Dog Coughing and Gagging?
Cough is a common presenting complaint in dogs of all ages, especially older dogs. Dogs are social creatures they naturally sniff and slurp. That’s why bacteria and viruses spread from dog to dog. Germs can land on different surfaces like floor, furniture, bowls, or toys, and when the next dog comes, he can pick them.
Coughing can be an appropriate physiological response to many different triggers such as environmental irritants, smoke, inflammation, or aspired food or water.
There can be multiple reasons behind a cough, so we cannot completely prevent the risk factors, but we can minimize this risk by keeping the dog up to date with vaccinations, parasite control, avoiding contact with dogs who have kennel cough, and making sure any choking hazard keeps away. Generally, cough suppressants are administered without much concentration on underlying disease conditions but diagnosing the actual reason behind cough is very important to treat it.
Types of cough and factors causative of Cough
Let’s take a look at different types of cough and factors and conditions that can lead to cough especially in older dogs.
Basically cough has 2 types in dogs
- Productive cough
- Non-productive cough
|Types of cough||Characteristic of cough|
|Productive||Moist Low pitched Material expectorated from trachea into pharynx|
|Non-productive||Dry Harsh , High pitched Expectoration of mucus in most cases|
Kennel cough is a highly contagious and prevalent disease that can cause persistent cough in dogs. It is not very serious and can go away within days. But it is contagious, and healthy dogs must be kept away from other dogs having kennel cough. Kennel cough can become very serious in older dogs and those having other health issues.
If a dog swallows any foreign object such as toys or bones, they can get stuck in the throat and thus lead to Choke. Obstruction of the esophagus leads to severe emergencies because it narrows the lumen of the trachea as well. In the case of choking dog coughs to clear the passageway and get enough air for breathing, but if it fails to throw out the swallowed object, a veterinarian should be contacted immediately.
It is a common condition in which cartilage rings of the windpipe collapse make it difficult for the dog to carry air from nose to mouth to lungs. The collapsing of the trachea can be identified by honking cough. The collapse of the trachea is not dependent on one factor instead multiple factors are involved in the collapsing of the trachea, which can be environmental or congenital. Dogs from smaller breeds are more likely to have this condition.
Heart diseases are the most common cause of cough in older dogs. Small breeds are more likely to develop congestive heart failure and valve disease. The larger breeds can also develop heart problems mostly related to heart muscles. Doberman, Boxers, and sheepdogs are most likely to develop heart problems.
One should make the following observations when looking for heart disease.
- A dog is more likely to cough when it lies down
- Gums of the dog show a bluish tinge instead of normal pink.
- The dog is less active than previously
- Dogs with severe heart disease often lose their appetite and lose weight
Diagnosis of heart diseases begins with auscultation and is then confirmed by Radiograph and Electrocardiogram (ECG).
Heartworm disease is an infectious cause of cough that can affect dogs of all ages. Dogs may acquire heartworm disease through the bite of an infected mosquito. This disease can spread from dog to dog, but only when the mosquito acts as an intermediate host. If proper care is not taken in treating heartworm disease, it can be fatal. Most of the dogs with heartworm disease have low exercise tolerance. It can be diagnosed with a blood test. Prevention is the best strategy against heartworms.
The inflammation of a dog’s airways is called bronchitis. Bronchitis can be a reason for cough in dogs, but in some cases, cough can also be due to cancer or pneumonia.
Coughs from Pneumonia
Inflammation of the lungs is called pneumonia. Pneumonia can be caused by bacterial and fungal infections. It can affect dogs of all ages, but older dogs are more prone to this condition due to weaker immunity. Dogs with pneumonia act ill, show fever, and cough around.
Radiographs such as X-rays can be used to diagnose pneumonia, and a confirmatory test can be carried out through blood. Medical therapies such as antibiotics along with oxygen and fluids are paramount in severe cases.
In case of an infection, the lungs will appear to have a whitish appearance on X-ray.
Cancer can cause a cough in older age. Although primary lung cancer is rare in dogs, exposure to environmental contaminants such as smoke can cause cancer. It can metastasize in the lungs. Radiographs are used to diagnose cancer problems. Different types of cancer are treated differently.
Cough due to Allergy
Some senior dogs can develop seasonal allergies, which can lead to coughing. This cough generally goes away automatically within days. The root cause of an allergy can be traced out by keeping an eye on the routine and history of the dog. Dog allergens are contagious, and the dog must be kept away from other dogs who have allergies. These small preventive measures can save your old buddy from suffering in old age.
A senior dog can develop a cough due to several causes. Most of these coughs are treatable, but the determination of the exact cause is mandatory. No cough medications should be given without the recommendation of a veterinarian. There are some cases, for example, Choke in which coughing is helpful and suppressing the cough can be harmful to the dog. Therefore one must avoid medication without a proper recommendation from a veterinarian.
Clinical signs shown by the dog and information provided by the owner are very vital in the correct diagnosis of disease.
The course of treatment for cough in a dog depends on the effective diagnosis of the condition. The physical condition and medical history of the dog plays a paramount role in choosing the line of treatment to be followed. A veterinarian will recommend treatment, keeping in view the overall health status of your old fellow. If necessary, he can decide about surgical intervention or medication only.
Small preventive steps can save your dog from suffering from cough, be it allergic or infectious. Following steps should be taken to prevent coughing:
- Timely vaccination
- Keep your dog away from infected dogs
- Routinely checkup by a veterinarian
- Parasite control
- Keep choking hazards away